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wolfFebruary 3 2016

The Department of Health is favouring pharmacy multiples in its proposals for a 6% cut to community pharmacy reimbursement, Numark’s managing director has warned.

In a strongly worded attack on the contract proposals for 2016-17, John D’Arcy has said the Department “is throwing pharmacy to the wolves. Rather than come up with some rational agenda for pharmacy distribution the process seems to be to pull the legs off the sector until it falls over.

“Taking this money away is a further body blow to the thousands of independent pharmacists in England and will have a significant impact, forcing a ‘survival of the fittest’ scenario that will change the look of community pharmacy forever. Yet again, owner-managed outlets will be exposed and experience this cut disproportionately.”

He pointed out that Community and Social Care Minister Alistair Burt had said that multiples will be better placed to cope with the cuts at his meeting with the parliamentary All Party Pharmacy Group. “It’s hard not to believe that this ‘vision’ for community pharmacy is based purely on the multiples, who are in a better position to consolidate branches and direct prescriptions from closed premises to an alternative outlet, maybe even the government-favoured hubs. Most independents have no such choice. It is an appalling ‘strategy’ that in my view won't work,” he said.

Mr D’Arcy was also critical of the way the Department is publishing information about how it drew up its contract proposals, originally set out in an open letter to PSNC on December 17. “The pre-Christmas letter hinted at forthcoming plans and the DH is now having to send information to explain the rationale behind it which we are receiving in a drip, drip fashion,” he said.

“It appears that they have known the mechanisms for the cuts all along and have not been honest with us. We have been left with conjecture, innuendo and hearsay and only parts of a jigsaw that do not fit together. In all this fog, it is impossible to discern anything remotely resembling a plan. But if there is one, we demand total transparency so that our members can make the harsh business decisions that will result from this.”

The Depart of Health added further details on the consultation process and proposals for community pharmacy to its webpage, ‘Putting community pharmacy at the heart of the NHS’, on January 27. In the House of Commons the following day, Paula Sheriff, MP for Dewsbury, asked that the pharmacy contract proposals be debated in the chamber to establish how the cuts could affect vulnerable patients.

The Leader of the House, Chris Grayling pointed out that Mr Burt was also in the chamber so had heard Ms Sheriff’s concern, but added: “The Government’s negotiations on that have just started. There is plenty of time for representations. We need to get the process right and the Minister has heard the point she made.”

Earlier in the week, the National Pharmacy Association hosted a webinar with NPA Chairman, Ian Strachan, Board Member Mike Hewitson and the NPA’s Head of Communications, Stephen Fishwick. They detailed the Governments proposals for funding cuts and ‘efficiencies’ and what this actually meant for community pharmacy. The webinar can be viewed on the NPA website.

Mr Hewitson explained that the proposals represent a big change to the sector with some opportunities which the profession would need to understand further. He also advised that the direct cuts are not the only measure to be concerned about; the additional ‘jumble of ideas’ could potentially be more painful than the funding cuts alone.

Mr Fishwick also encouraged viewers to get involved in the challenging the proposals by:

  • letting the NPA know about how members’ pharmacies have helped patients and the local community
  • completing the NPA’s short survey detailing what services are offered in members’ pharmacies
  • writing to MPs
  • ordering campaign cards
  • taking part in the NPA ‘Hub & Spoke’ survey seeking views on the proposals to centralise dispensing services.

Former MP and Chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society's English Pharmacy Board, Sandra Gidley raised the profession’s concerns in a BBC interview. “The RPS is extremely concerned about the announced funding cut for community pharmacy. It believes the proposed scale of the reduction in support for the service has the potential to adversely impact patient care,” she said

“We also believe the cuts are short sighted, coming just as phenomenal pressures on other parts of the NHS mean that community pharmacists are now seen as an accessible source for advice, helping people stay well through treating them for many minor ailments and health conditions.

“With ever growing pressures on GP surgeries and hospital A&E departments, an integrated community pharmacy network is key to ensuring people have access to the healthcare they need ... there is a very real concern within the profession that the Government is attempting to cut the cost of the community pharmacy service without considering the real value we provide to patients and the public.

“Government must consider the capacity that the community pharmacy network provides to relieve pressures on GPs and A&E.”

Links:

Numark

DoH consultation documents

House of Commons Daily Hansard January 28 2016

NPA webinar

RPS comment

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